“How you live your days is how you live your life.” -Annie Dillard
Morning is sacred time for me. It’s the time that the world is limitless in its possibilities, that each day is ripe with openness, that I have the power to create and become anything. That is why I try to get up as early as possible and do something rather than hit snooze and end up having to run out the door, grabbing a croissant to eat on the go, and being stressed from the first moment of the day. Stress begets stress. But flow begets flow. If I can do a few things that nourish mind, body and spirit at the cusp of the day then I head out into the world feel strong and clear. I love my mornings!
To that end, I’ve made a habit of doing a morning routine– practices that feel good to me, that make me feel vibrant and happy. It has evolved based on trial and error, and digging deep to discover what really matters in my life. It is a time I gift to myself for personal development.
What is a Morning Routine?
A morning routine is a set of practices and habits that you do each and every morning, first thing. There has been a wealth of scientific research done on people who have morning routines. Just about every successful person you can think of (from Bill Gates to Oprah to Barak Obama) have morning routines. And while many routines share similar characteristics (exercise, meditation and visualizing success/ goal-setting are commonly stated), productivity experts say it doesn’t much matter what you do in your morning routine. It just matters that you do it.
Why have a morning routine?
It starts your day off on your own terms. I try to not look at the computer until after I have done my morning routine otherwise I will be sucked down the internet black hole. Also, reading other people’s emails and Facebook feeds means that I am starting the day on someone else’s agenda. A morning routine centers and grounds me in what truly matters to me.
It boosts productivity due to eliminating decision-making. Mark Zuckerburg wears the same thing everyday. Twyla Tharp has had the same breakfast every day for 40 years. This does not make you a stick in the mud. Habits are powerful tools. You will still have hundreds of decisions to make for the whole rest of the day! You can’t avoid making decisions but in the first hour of the morning, you can minimize them as much as possible. Life will have plenty of opportunity for spontaneity the other 15 waking hours but the first hours should be based in a consistent mindful practice.
It actually feels incredibly freeing to be so attached to one regiment. It’s counterintuitive but having infinite options is really limiting. You don’t have to waste time wondering what to do next. Your schedule is laid out for you, each morning, crafted with care and intention to maximize your well-being.
You take care of yourself. My morning routine helps me approach the day mindfully. Within the very first hour of the day I’ve done something to nourish my mind, body and spirit. That’s a powerful hour! And it makes me feel good! It makes my whole day better. And guess what- I’ve never missed an amazing life opportunity due to not being on Facebook early in the morning!
You are creating space to implement the life you want. Starting the day in mindfulness and filling your mornings with joy and calm will have benefits that carry across into your whole day. Taking care of myself first thing gives me momentum for the rest of the day. I am setting myself up to choose positive actions instead of reacting to emails, reacting to stress. If we don’t carve out time for personal development no one is going to grant us the time for it.
My morning routine
- Wake up at 7am
- Make bed, open window for fresh air
- Make coffee. Read something inspiring, like a book on meditation or some poetry, while drinking coffee
- Meditate 20-30 minutes
- Yoga 20-30 minutes
- Eat breakfast (I decide what this will be the night before)
- Wash face, brush teeth, put on SPF (I’m not so good at making SPF a habit yet)
- Do some French study
- Bonus Step. Often while riding my bike to work (which I actually got in order to give me ten extra minutes in the morning for my routine!) I’ll listen to French or a health podcast.
It looks like a lot but doing this actually helps me save time. Rather than rushing around, I am intentional and focused. Instead of having infinite options, limiting myself makes me do only those things which really matter but which are so easily pushed aside if you don’t create space for them. I’m not wasting time because I know exactly what needs to be done each morning, and they are all things that I want to do which makes it easier. If you do your morning routine and then do literally nothing else productive the whole day, you’ve won already.
So how do you build your very own morning routine?
I am constantly tweaking my morning routine based on how I feel and my goals. But the core remains. Play around with different things until you find a routine that works for you. Try to at least get a few minutes of moving your body and a few minutes of mindfulness in there though.
- Decide what your values and priorities are. Then do those. But focus on things that bring you vitality. Moving your body, eating well, listening to classical music, whatever it is that increases the quality of your life. For example, as I get older, I notice that I dance better if I do yoga before ballet class so now that has become a part of my morning routine.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself. Start with just a few items for a few weeks until it becomes habit. Then, evaluate how you feel. Add or subtract as needed.
- Get up earlier. Not a morning person? You can become one. And hey, why not just try it out? If you don’t like it after a few weeks, tweak it and change it. You have to wake up eventually- if your wake up time is usually 2pm try 1pm instead and implement your morning routine then. It doesn’t have to take a long time and chances are by waking up even a half-hour earlier but with a plan you will achieve so much more by the time you leave the house. You will feel pumped to achieve more! So don’t hit snooze. Get up and get living!
- Keep your devices shut the first hour your are awake. The internet in the morning will suck you down a trap. Ask, is this twitter deepening my life and helping me to achieve the goals I want? If it is then by all means twitter away. But c’mon. Really? I guarantee you, the emails and social media and terrible news will all still be there waiting for you after you’ve done your morning routine but you’ll be in a much happier, centered place to tackle them.
- Write down your morning routine down to take the guess work out of your morning (and so that you don’t get tempted by the internet or distracted by shallow tasks like all of a sudden needing to dust your light fixtures like RIGHT NOW). There are tons of apps designed to help you turn your morning routine into habit. I just use a spreadsheet called Dailies where I check off each component of my ideal day as I go. It holds me accountable to myself.
- Set yourself up the night before. At night I set up my aeropress so that my coffee is ready to go first thing in the morning. Then I review what I will do the next morning, sometimes even choosing which yoga video I will do ahead of time. It’s about minimizing decisions remember. I’m actually excited to go to bed so I can wake up to my fabulous morning! Then, go to bed!
Does it have to be in the morning?
Yeah it kinda does. Of course some people are more creative at night but for the majority of people (there are studies about this, people) if you don’t do it in the morning chances are you won’t do it at all. We have a finite amount of willpower in any given day so if there are habits you want to implement doing them first is the way to go! For all our best intentions, by the time the night comes you don’t know what your level of energy will be, you may have received an invitation to do something else, you may just want to watch Netflix. And that’s all good- because you will have nourished yourself already.
At nighttime I can do things a little less lofty shall we say- I can clean, check emails, or do French conjugations when I am feeling less open and less creative. But in the morning when I am still a little bit in dreams, I want to carry that state of incipient potential forward.
Want to learn more? Listen to this podcast with the guy who used a morning routine to completely change (and save) his life. http://ultimatehealthpodcast.com/hal-elrod/
Do you have a morning routine? Let’s hear it in the comments below!